Last night I went to a small discussion group led by the absolutely amazing professor Brian Kernighan about intellectual property rights. Being a sort of neo-Luddite, or maybe just clueless in general, I am only recently discovering the world of mp3s, and with them the ethical problems of downloading and file-sharing. The idea of piracy as progressive taxation came up. I'm really not sure what I think about it yet, but as a lefty sorta guy I find it intriguing. So two things came to mind thanks to the conversation:
1) Whatever happened to the idea of musicians as performers, as opposed to recording artists? It seems like one of the benefits of "shared" music is the better ability of musicians to attract audiences to pay to see them in action. I know my wife and I wouldn't have bought tickets to see Fountains of Wayne, even though they were playing about 200 yards from our apartment, had we not sampled their wares electronically first. After the concert we stood in line to buy CDs from them directly, and would have gladly dropped $30 had they had any to sell (T-shirts galore but no CDs, go figure). I suppose the next best thing will be to purchase them from the band's website, but we really wanted to give FOW money as directly as possible. New computing equipment has evidently made both recording and producing albums easier, and cheaper. Who cares what the recording industry thinks if artists can simply bypass them in order to get their music out and earn audiences and fans? An overly utopic view, I'm sure, and no doubt the BigMusicFool will have more sensible things to say on this...
2) Playlists and mixes as artistry. Is there a website for people to share their playlists, or favorite mixes? Back in the day dubbing a mix-tape was an art form, especially if there was an object of amatory affection involved. Now, with software like iTunes and cheap laptops equipped with burners, even idiots like myself can tinker with playlists and burn a CD mix from our own collections. In fact, do any FoolBlog readers have any playlists that they are especially fond of that they would like to share? Put them in the comments section, or email them, or link to them, whatever. I decided to spend some time on mixing a CD, and the following is what I came up with. I tried to keep it fairly uniform, and give it both narrative and balance. This certainly makes no claims to be an artistic endeavor, but so far it's a nice listen which blends some of my favorite artists and songs.
Sundown - Gordon Lightfoot
The Other Shoe - Old 97's
And a Bang on the Ear - Waterboys
Excitable Boy - Warren Zevon
Veronica - Elvis Costello
Le Temps de Vivre - Georges Moustaki
Lorelei - The Pogues
Hey Jude - The Beatles
Daysleeper - R.E.M.
Both Our Towns - Star Room Boys
Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon - Urge Overkill
Free Fallin' - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Immer nur ficken - Die Prinzen
Salome - Old 97's
Tuesday's Dead - Cat Stevens
Hey Julie - Fountains Of Wayne
TMW explores more pundit rationalization of multinational corporations screwing Americans out of jobs. George Will is not alone. Related: as linked everywhere, John Dingell's open letter to Greg Mankiw on fast-food jobs as manufacturing is a thing of beauty.
As reported by my pal Otis and then linked at Body & Soul, a Denver church blames the Jews right on their sign. I thought George Will said the left were the anti-semites? I find it curious that when white conservatives are asked about slavery and reparations, they say "That was centuries ago, why are you blaming us today for something that happened before we were born?", but boy are they ready to blame modern Jews for something that happened two thousand years ago. Also, the General has a telling list of responses to that Jesus movie everyone's been talking about, and David Neiwert apparently actually saw it and posts his reactions.
On a lighter note, I obviously need to get some freakin' Nutri-Grain bars.
OK, I'm going to talk about poker now, specifically playing on-line. 98% of you won't care. Feel free to skip it, or wait around for Rob to post another 10,000 word opus.
Right. So, Las Vegas Advisor held a free on-line poker tournament, for which I downloaded and installed software from what is, apparently, one of the leading off-shore poker outfits. I have continued to play their free games; I don't feel motivated to send a cashier's check to Antigua in order to play for money. But the free/play money games are frustrating as hell, because by and large no one folds. You get freakin' pocket aces and think you're all set, so you raise before the flop, but eight of the other nine dorks at the table stay in. Pocket aces are great against one or two other players, but when you have six or eight opponents, one of them is going to get lucky and get two pair or a straight. I'd like to think of these games as practice for the next time I go to Vegas, but the dynamics of the game are altogether different from playing for real money.
If one does play for money, you can enter a $3 sub-satellite, and if you come in the top 25 or so there you get free entry into a $100 satellite. If you win THAT, you get entry and travel expenses to a big event like WSOP or Ultimate Bet's big championship in Aruba. I figure my chances of pulling that off are slightly better than my chances of winning the lottery. Just as soon as I win LVA's next free tournament and get a little seed money in my account.
Speaking of which, WSOP 2004 scheduled for May. I will gladly split my proceeds with anyone who wants to sponsor me for the $10,000 entry fee.
Via Jackalope--the guy who has been the San Antonion Spurs' mascot for 20 years had a stroke and was forced to retire. Other Texas mascots show their support, and columnist Buck Harvey shows his appreciation.
After reading the Post this morning, I was plotting my takedown of my favorite whipping boy, George Will, for his column equating a few weirdos in Europe with anti-Semitism on the part of all liberals (at least that's how the headline reads). Unfortunately, I was in meetings all morning, so Jesse beat me to it.
Remember, a bunch of right wingnuts with enough cyanide to kill a good-sized town have nothing to do with conservatism at large, but a few goofballs in Europe make Hitler references, therefore The Left Hates the Jews!
I had the misfortune of catching Arizona congressman J.D. Hayworth, one of the co-sponsors of the anti-gay marriage amendment, on CNN this morning. I found this bit telling:
HEMMER: Congressman, you're married, right?
HEMMER: How would it harm you or your wife if gays or lesbians were allowed to marry legally in this country?
HAYWORTH: Well, the question is devoid of personalities, Bill. The fact is what we're looking at is the institution of marriage. This has very little to do with homosexuality and everything to do with the institution of marriage. And the question becomes, despite the fact that people are saying let the states decide, are we really letting the states decide when we let the Massachusetts Supreme Court, on a narrow vote, tell the people of Massachusetts that there will be gay marriage?
The other thing we point out, Bill, is the whole dynamic of what is called intimacy, because that's what the majority on the Massachusetts Supreme Court based its vote on it. It said marriage is an establishment of intimacy.
Now, by that standard, how many people do we have to have to have intimate? I guess two, three, four. It begs the question, which is why, sadly, a constitutional amendment is needed, which is why President Bush reluctantly came to this decision yesterday.
"The question is devoid of personalities?" WTF? In other words, when asked "How will this actually harm you?", you got nothing. No Thing. Nuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuthin'. NOTHING, Hayworth.
He goes on to talk about the Mass. Supreme Court. It amazes me how conservatives, when it's convenient, act as though judges are beings from another planet that are absolutely out of touch with The Will of the People. Civics refresher: even if judges aren't directly elected, they are appointed through a democratic process, one way or another. They're selected by a president or governor who was democratically elected, and approved by a Senate or state legislature that was democratically elected. If the resulting judicial appointments produce rulings that the People don't like, perhaps they should contact their president/governor/senator/state rep and say "Stop appointing/approving such liberal freakshow/conservative wingnut judges!"
Finally there's the slippery-slope argument, which Hayworth puts in terms of polygamy, and has also been used to suggest people will want to marry their dogs, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, and household appliances (never mind that the dog and the toaster can't sign the freakin' marriage license). Later in the same CNN broadcast, Log Cabin Republicans Grand Pooh-Bah Patrick Guerriero pointed out what a non-sequiter the polygamy argument is, and that made me wonder: if that's really what Hayworth and his ilk are afraid of, and they don't really hate gay people, why not word their amendment to define marriage as being between two people?
Oh, that's right--because they actually DO hate gay people.
Scalzi says it more eloquently than I ever could, but seeing these happy couples makes me feel better about my own marriage as a covenant and institution, not worse.
(Props to Ted at Crooked Timber for posting the links to Scalzi's website.)
Thanks to Juan Cole for the Aussie poll link.
And now, a piece by friend of the FoolBlog and occasional commenter Snark.
As I have watched the gay/lesbian marriage happenings this week in San Francisco and Sandoval County New Mexico, and the resulting panic by the conservative and religious groups...I stop and wonder what else the Bush administration will do to ignore the real problems of America.
First of all, gay/lesbian marriage. What are the conservatives afraid of? Maybe that a man and man or woman and woman will get to pay taxes as a couple. Maybe that a gay couple could be part of a loving family. How about the thought that a lesbian couple could actually buy property together as equals under the law.
Or more is the problem that the conservative right is unable to understand or accept the concept that a couple of the same sex could actually express a lifetime commitment towards one an other? I believe they are unable to accept that a gay or lesbian couple could actually come out of the shadows and live in mainstream America. They are unable to see a society that accepts people for who they are or wish to be, rather than the way that the conservatives want them to be. They hide behind religion, bigotry, and fear in order to maintain the status quo which benefits them and oppresses others. What's the issue? That a gay/lesbian couple become an accepted part of society? Or is it the absolute fear that they too might have to one day accept a gay or lesbian child or family member?
And now there is talk about a constitutional amendment to ban gay/lesbian marriage. What's next...a constitutional amendment preventing Americans from expressing their distaste with a situation by burning a flag? How about one to suspend our basic Miranda rights, or one that allows the imprisonment of anyone deemed a "terrorist" indefinitely without any representation or trial. Don't we have bigger problems? How about a balanced budget constitutional amendment. How about doing something about social security, job creation, an economy which favors the few, and neglects the many...the price of tea in Brooklyn?
And what about terrorism...the mantra which GWBush has used to suspend American rights, invade a sovereign nation, and redefine an unpopular presidency? Its not surprising that in the absence of proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, absence of proof that he showed up to play soldier in Alabama, absence of a real turnaround in the economy, and the lack of capture of Osama Bin Ladin, that he and his administration has turned to such a low priority issue as stopping gays and lesbians from holding a piece of paper that says "married." I believe that the conservative right has no issue cards left to play. They can't stand up and point to their successes...because they are few and far between...So they play on the insecurities and bigotry of an uneasy society, hoping to deflect the argument from the real issues.
Sadly, this ploy will work unless the people stand up and demand accountability. That's our job. Stand up people. Start asking the tough questions. And don't accept the political double talk...because you know its coming. This IS our country, we DO give a damn, and we WILL hold our leaders to a higher standard!
I stayed home sick yesterday and couldn't bring myself to mess with the computer. A couple of interesting items: a while back I posted a co-worker's theory that the number of 2000 Bush voters going Democratic in 2004 would so outweigh the 2000 Gore voters going the other way that it would swing the 2004 election for the Democrats. Now CalPundit quotes a Times story right in line with that theory: 11% of 2000 Bush voters likely to switch, only 5% of Gore voters. Whoo hoo!
Also, earlier this month I made one lousy post about Quizno's ads, and suddenly "Quizno's" is the number one search term for bigfool.com this month. For all those who came here seeking an explanation and didn't get enough of one, there's now a Slate Ad Report Card column on these ads. Evidently those creatures are "spongmonkeys."
Anybody who says that, with his invasion of Iraq, "Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory", deserves a link. Never did I imagine that it would be Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy, James Webb to whom I would be linking! He also has some choice things to say about George Junior's Guard duty, a topic near and dear to my own heart. So, will you pro-war folks prefer freedom-fries with your crow, or a nice Chardonnay?
Yes, folks, New Mexico is part of the USA, and now they're getting into the gay marriage business too. (Via Atrios.)
I want to see the first gay couple married while aloft during the balloon fiesta. Or a mass gay wedding at the Hatch Green Chile Festival. That would be cool.
Via Atrios, Katha Pollitt has a great piece on the activities of feminist organizations, and how jackasses like Nicholas Kristof conveniently ignore it when writing bitchy columns. The whole "Why aren't my ideological opponents complaining about this issue, those hypocrites?" thing is really tiresome, especially when those people actually ARE trying to do something about this problem, and you were either too lazy to figure that out or just chose to act otherwise.
Morford on this week in San Francisco. Fiore has a good take as well. Also, send congratulatory flowers to a random couple waiting in line to get married. My wife and I discussed this last night, and she said the right thing to do would be to get the flowers from a gay-owned flower shop. I said, "Do you think there are any gay florists in San Francisco? I dunno...."
Digby has a superb post on why the war in Iraq is a massive strategic blunder, regardless of whether Saddam-out-of-power is an undeniably good thing.
Finally, where can you see tigers? Only in Kenya!
A year or so ago I criticized a piece of his in which he said increases in federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks were unnecessary, in part because 150 years ago you had horses pooping in the streets, and at least that isn't a problem anymore. Now he rationalizes off-shoring of American jobs by pointing out that we don't have blacksmiths and buggy makers anymore, and nobody seems to miss them. I'm surprised he didn't include street-horse-poop shovellers in there, too.
Yeah, Hastert said "An economy suffers when jobs disappear," but extrapolating that to mean "ANY time ANY job goes away, it's a national tragedy," is yet another exercise in intellectual dishonesty.
In November, Indiana Gov. Joseph Kernan canceled a $15 million contract with a firm in India to process state unemployment claims. The contract was given to a U.S. firm that will charge $23 million. Because of this 53 percent price increase, there will be 8 million fewer state dollars for schools, hospitals, law enforcement, etc. And the benefit to Indiana is . . . what?
Um, some people in Indiana HAVE JOBS?!? And that $8M fewer state dollars is a freakin' drop in the bucket.
Shorter George Will: Anything major corporations want to do is A-OK by me.
The Phanatic's head is safe. The doofus who stole it tried to claim the rewards offered for its return, but holes in his story led to his confession.
I say, we send him to Detroit and make him go to Tigers games all year.
Traded to the Senators. Now I'll have another team to root for, after the Flyers inevitably lose in the first round of the playoffs.
"Rebuilding" is not a pleasant experience for the fans. Presumably, in the long term the Caps will be better as a result, but seeing all the best players traded away is just a bummer. I prefer "Juggernaut," which was experienced by Chicago Bulls fans during the Jordan Years, and I've only felt with DC United in 1997--from the first day of the season, they were far and away the best team in the league, and it was largely inevitable that they'd win the championship. That is all kinds of rare, and if you experience it as a fan, be sure to enjoy it while it lasts.
...as promised, following his loss in Wisconsin. No endorsement of Kerry or Edwards--he's probably waiting for VP discussions. But he did encourage his supporters to work to defeat Bush in November, and that's important. If Deanies support Kerry and/or Edwards through the end of the year with half the fervor that went into Dean's campaign, we'll have little trouble.
UPDATE: Koufax Award champ Billmon has a great post summing up Dean's importance to the Democratic party, and what his departure from the race could yield.
All of these questions about President Bush's National Guard duty have reminded me of one of the chief reasons I had such a strong dislike for him as a presidential candidate, and why I have had such a difficult time accepting him in his persona as Wartime President. My unease has never been based primarily on whether he fulfilled the terms of his National Guard contract, his "missing year", etc. For many people these are the crucial questions, and Calpundit is the best clearinghouse for readers interested in these matters. He has been doing great bird-dog work, and synthesis, so if you are interested in a great introduction to the issues, and they are important and relevant, go there.
Personally, I think a more unsettling issue is how President Bush has never addressed (nor for that matter has the media) the manner in which he gained entrance into the Guard in the first place. He graduated from Yale in 1968, and so his student deferment came to an end. Sometime after graduating he decided to join the National Guard, and managed to secure a slot despite having over 500 applicants in front of him. Given his family connections, it's fair to speculate that strings were pulled on his behalf. His extraordinarily low scores on some of the entrance exams for flight school notwithstanding, he was assigned to flight training and thence to a Texas-based interceptor unit. But to my mind the current wrangling over the details of his service, or lack of, in the Guard often gives short shrift to the fact that he was awarded this most cherry of posts so unfairly in the first place.
I can understand how he may have wanted to avoid the draft. I remember sitting around with my college friends in 1991 discussing what we would do if a draft were revived. [continue reading by clicking link below]
Most of us decided we would go, but only reluctantly. Many of our positions turned on whether or not we saw the conflict for which we might be sacrificed as a worthy one. The first Gulf War seemed to us, 21 or 22 years old and mostly naive and clueless, as less problematic than the Vietnam War had been. I also remember talking to my mother about these conversations, and when she heard that I'd probably submit to being drafted, she blew a gasket. "Over my dead body!" Can I imagine Barbara and the elder George Bush expressing similar sentiments when faced with their son going to Vietnam twenty years earlier? Absolutely. I am sure my mom would have done everything in her power to prevent me from being sent off to Iraq, Kuwait, or wherever Uncle Sam said he needed me. Being a low-paid secretary her power would have been limited to packing me and a few pounds of tuna-fish sandwiches on a bus to Mexico (much closer and cheaper than Canada). The Bush clan wouldn't have faced such limitations, and it doesn't seem that they imposed any restraints on their powers to secure the younger George a position safe from the dangers of Vietnam. I can't blame them for doing this, and I am sympathetic to their situation, but I do think their own, and the younger Bush's, public support for Vietnam then and later makes such choices and actions open to legitimate criticism. Moreover, my feeling is that this story is fundamentally more important than the current flap over President Bush's National Guard service. David Neiwert recently wrote a great piece on how the political and personal have become so intertwined, and I confess that my approach to these issues is very personal, and so perhaps not as diplomatic or objective as some might wish.
My father served active duty in the Air Force from 1966 to 1972, but had the good fortune of never going to Vietnam. My grandfathers, great-uncles and assorted long-distance elder relatives served in the Army, Navy, Marines and Merchant Marine in World War Two and Korea. Growing up I was fascinated by their war-tales, and this family history was the prime motivator for my joining JROTC in high-school. At that point I was already thinking it would be a good way to get advanced training and instant E-3 status when I enlisted in the Navy after graduating. One year of a poor record of shoe-shining and insufficient martial fervor convinced me that the military wasn't for me, but it never weakened my ingrained respect for military service and the sacrifice and commitment it entailed.
That said, my own take on questions of Vietnam service tend to center on a certain young Texan who graduated in 1968. This was my mother's brother, who, like her and my aunt, grew up a few miles east of Beaumont, Texas in a house my grandfather had built with his own hands. I may have grown up poor, but they grew up dirt poor, having neither toilet nor bathtub, but rather an outhouse and tin wash-tub, which were in use until the mid 70s. The high-school from which my mother, aunt and uncle all graduated sent very few of its graduates to college, and more than its fair share to Vietnam. The young men of my uncle's generation and locale, comfortable with guns, mosquitoes and weeks spent hanging out in gar-infested bogs, were seemingly tailor-made for Vietnam. Many of them went, and many didn't ever come back again to enjoy catfish, crawdads and cold beer with their buddies.
Some of my own fondest memories are of camping and fishing in the vast cypress swamps of the Neches and Sabine wetlands that were the stomping grounds for generations of my family and friends. It was my uncle who was the one who introduced me to this area, and it was here where he spent most of the Vietnam war. I'm not sure why he didn't go to Vietnam. It may have been a lucky lottery number, or it may have been that the geography of that area provided an easy refuge for those who were willing to trade one swamp existence for another. I do know he spent many years living "on the river" and earning a bit of money by "calling up the fish" (five bucks for the first reader who tells me in the comments section what this means!). When I was younger I never thought to ask why. Heck, why not? As an adolescent a few weeks of hanging out with him was enough to make me try to avoid going home to Albuquerque at all costs, so the answer seemed obvious enough. Now I'm not so sure. Faced with the prospect of being forced to fight in a war whose purposes and motivations seemed so tenuous and contrived, and whose rationales were constantly being shifted in the language of America's elected leaders, can we blame anybody for hesitating, or for taking advantage of the cards their birth and native surroundings had given them? It's not so farfetched to think that at some point George W. Bush's F-102 roared over the East Texas bayous where my uncle was spending the late 60s and early 70s. For me that picture provides a convenient and striking juxtaposition of the elite, privileged world of those who make and articulate the decisions to go to war, and the world of those who are merely required to serve, and to sometimes die.
President George W. Bush claims he supported the Vietnam war, and that he would have gone if called. So why did he not volunteer to go? Why did he retreat to the safety of a stateside billet; an interceptor unit whose very mission and nature would have prevented it from ever being posted to Vietnam? It is a safe bet that his family used their power and resources to ensure that he would gain access to a safe post, one which wouldn't besmirch the family's good political name. There is no dishonor in National Guard service, but let's call it what it was then: a way to avoid the draft and the horrors of Vietnam. He was no deserter, and whether he was AWOL during his Guard service is a question still open for examination. The epithet of "draft dodger" has been frequently applied to President Clinton, yet his deferment was earned thanks to a Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most competitive and prestigious scholarships available to an American citizen. George W. Bush's successful avoidance was thanks to the wealth and power of his family. He was able to leapfrog other candidates waiting for admission into the National Guard, and he was posted to a flight billet despite his poor examination results. Boys like my uncle had neither of these options. College had never factored into their plans, nor did they enjoy the privilege of power and wealth out of which exemptions and favors could be squeezed.
"Character Counts" has become a touchstone phrase among American conservatives. I have never understood how George W. Bush has become such a beloved figure for those who profess adherence to this idea. I am willing to see that he is a changed man from the feckless youth he admits to once being. I can also understand why his born-again religious convictions and successful battle against alcohol are compelling narratives, and for some speak powerfully in his favor. What I do not see is a man willing to confront honestly the ways in which his privileged background enabled him to dodge service in Vietnam. He has wrapped his administration in the flag, and he has brazenly co-opted the honorable service of the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan in framing his bid for re-election. Whether by campaigning as the Wartime President, or through staging carrier-landings just out of sight of San Diego, he raises serious questions about his own character by failing to address and acknowledge the manner in which he failed to actively serve in the war he and his family so openly supported.
Were he to come clean about his own youthful fears or worries, and perhaps about his family's ability to help him avoid facing them, I believe most Americans would not judge him harshly. I personally would find such introspection honorable. He was practically a kid, and his generation was bound up in one of the most divisive and ugly affairs in our country's history. His failure to acknowledge the ambiguity and difficulties however, only adds to my profound distrust of him as a leader. He seems to have no ability to appreciate the impact that Vietnam, a war which was sold to the public on false premises and continued by means of false promises, had upon his country's political psychology.
One of the respondents to a previous post asserted that the fact that Bush argued for war against Iraq primarily on the basis of WMD simply doesn't matter. In his view we elected the President to do a job, and if the President believed that the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do, then the way the war is sold is secondary. According to him, in order to achieve their policy goals it is OK for political leaders to use whichever way is instrumentally most effective.
I disagree. Moreover I think it is precisely this method of shaping politics which lands democracies into situations like Vietnam, and perhaps Iraq, in the first place. If elected officials expect citizens to support a war, to serve, and potentially to sacrifice their own lives in its pursuit, such leaders certainly owe the people they ostensibly serve the decency of faithfully arguing for war based on all reasons, not just the most marketable ones. Democracy isn't a focus-group, and such an approach dishonors the ideals upon which this nation was founded. But it does seem like President Bush and his advisors conceive of our system as simple marketing, whether the issue at hand is waging war or implementing domestic policy. In this world of democracy as sales then perhaps George W. Bush doesn't see his failure to serve in a war he and his family publicly supported to be problematic at all since elites like the Bush family make the decisions, sway the mass of citizens into support by hook or by crook, and lend their individual commitments according to whatever ends they deem appropriate at the moment. After all, I bet in their eyes their power and wealth was all earned fair and square, and so their ability to get young George out of Vietnam was just taking advantage of the system. I personally find this sort of manipulation repugnant, deceitful and a basic flaw in our supposedly egalitarian society. It doesn't seem too surprising that Bush's behavior (and that of many others like him) during his own generation's war might have some bearing on the ways in which he has abused his power as President and public persuader in order to embroil his country in yet another poorly articulated and weakly supported war of supposed liberation. People like George W. Bush never seem to have understood that the outrage against Vietnam was partly based on the duplicitous manner in which the war was sold and packaged, and the patently unequal ways in which people served, or didn't.
ADDENDUM: An interesting quote, thanks to an attentive reader: In his 1995 memoir, My American Journey, General Colin Powell wrote: "I particularly condemn the way our political leaders supplied the manpower for that war [The Vietnam War]. The policies determining who would be drafted and who would be deferred, who would serve and who would escape, who would die and who would live, were an anti-democratic disgrace.... I am angry that so many sons of the powerful and well-placed ... managed to wrangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to our country."
There's already plenty of posts around Olde Blogg Towne about Peggy Noonan's column in the Post today, and in the next few hours I'm sure we'll be falling all over each other to rip apart her chat session on the Post's web site.
Kansas City, Mo.: Excuse me? "Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man." He used connections to bypass 500 others to get in the Guard, his father's friends helped him in the oil and baseball business, and he's in the White House thanks to people his dad appointed. So how is that average? Sounds a lot more like the triumph of the well-connected American man.
Peggy Noonan: Put your resentment away for a second and consider this. There's a funny thing about Bush. He started life with all the advantages -- parents, security, standing. And yet I have noticed there is about him the lack of smoothness, and the chippiness, of one who is self made. He's not like some smooth countryclub entitlement baby, he's rougher and less...lemonade on the porch in Greenwhich-y. I think it's Texas. What do you think?
Shorter version: Yes, but if you just turn off your goddamn brain and ignore the exploitation of connections to get what he wanted in the Guard and the oil industry and all that other stuff, he's really quite normal. And I'll say any crazy thing to make Bush look good.
Say it with me, because it's an Official Catchphrase of the FoolBlog: These people have no honor.
Readers of this blog probably loathe SUVs as much as I do. Therefore, you don't really need a link to another anti-SUV screed, do you? Of course you do! Send it to all your friends who drive Hummers and Ford Executioners! Go Easterbrook!
I've been mad busy with work, so no posts of late. Here's some stuff to tide you over.
Via August, TNR points out that John Muhammed, aka one of the Beltway snipers, was honorably discharged from the National Guard, despite having lots of crap on his record. Not to compare the President to Muhammed, but it makes the point that being honorably discharged from the guard doesn't automatically mean that everything was perfect during your time of service. In general, lots of news about Bush's AWOL time is flying around--go see CalPundit for a run-down.
Jeanne is suitably brief on gay weddings in San Francisco, and Ampersand has good bits from Massachusetts. Contrast that to the people I saw on the news the other night, in court, trying to have the weddings halted. Um, how exactly does this affect your day-to-day life, again? "It ruins the sanctity of marriage..." No no, give a specific, concrete example of how gay marriage would change your life for the worse. Especially if gay marriage was legal overnight and nobody told you about it, would it make a bit of freakin' difference? I didn't think so.
For President's Day, SKB has a comprehensive list of George W. Bush's accomplishments in office.
Finally, be sure to dig on Charlie Brown and the gang gettin' crunk.
This month's Monkey from Blork is, "Talk about the times in your life when you felt really, really alive." In reading others' entries, I find it interesting to note that they're almost all good times. And of course those are important, but I thought to list some bad times too, those that are intense and you know how important they are while they're happening. So here's a few, but by no means an exhaustive list:
A co-worker came up with the following simple explanation for why a Democratic victory in November is inevitable:
1. Think about how close 2000 was, both in popular vote and the electoral college.
2. How many people who voted for Gore or Nader in 2000 are going to vote for Bush this time around? Probably not many.
3. How many people who voted for Bush in 2000 now regret it and are going to change their vote? A heck of a lot more than are going in the other direction.
Sure, it's overly simple, and it depends on having enough voters change to swing at least one Bush state into the Dem column. And it assumes that votes won't be stolen or denied due to technological shenanigans or voter intimidation. But still, it's a promising thought.
Kerry wins TN and VA convincingly. Clark is likely out. It's looking more and more like Kerry's the nominee.
So I didn't have much trouble cheering for him at his rally last night at GMU (video here). Quite a crowd. The rally was promoted as starting at 7, but in fact Kerry wasn't scheduled to speak until 8. I got there just before 7, and was barely able to get a spot on the third floor overlooking the atrium, where if I leaned down and looked between the two people in front of me, I could see the podium.
At 8 PM Max Cleland came out and waved to the crowd, and a bunch of other people--I think Jim Moran was down there, but I didn't recognize anyone else and could hardly see them anyway. They all kind of stood around for a half hour, then they finally got things under way. Introductions by a couple of GMU student government officials, and some yahoo from Kerry's Virginia campaign structure, then Governor Warner made a quick speech. Finally the man himself got up and talked for about 15 minutes.
The crowd was receptive, and I didn't disagree with anything he said, but I have to say, the man is no Howard Dean. I attended a Dean rally back in the late summer, and he just made us yell and scream and want to kick ass. Kerry is nice and all, which I suppose will play in Peoria, but doesn't do much to energize the base, in my opinion.
There were a smattering of College Republicans around, holding Bush-Cheney signs, and one dope on the center stairs with a hand-scrawled "Mason Loves Bush" sign. Well done, pal, your sign counteracts these other 2000 people screaming for Kerry! There were no blatant attempts to disrupt the proceedings, though. I have to figure they all lived on campus and just came because it was happening locally; otherwise, I can't understand the mindset that would provoke one to attend an opposition rally, other than just to be a jackass. I would only come near a Bush event in the context of an organized, coherent protest, like we did for the inauguration in 2001. But to just wade into the crowd and hold up my "Dean/Clark/Kerry for President" sign? Anything positive coming from that action would be overwhelmed by my urge to vomit at being surrounded by so many Bush supporters.
The other night I finished Joseph Weisberg's 10th Grade, which was a rather enjoyable read, and then googled it to get discussion and/or more information. I found Weisberg's own site, and from there I was led to his Slate diary series, which is what got me to pick up the book in the first place. It's even more interesting to read it again having read the book. In particular, I was struck by this bit from his Friday entry:
We should certainly give up on the idea that we can teach students anything by having them write essays about books. It's a completely unnatural process—who ever finishes a book and thinks, "I'd like to write an essay about that?" The natural response to a book is to talk about it, not write about it. That's why book clubs have discussions instead of writing papers.
When I was in high school, one of the most dreaded tasks was the "Source Theme." You took a book, made some theory about its meaning or whatever, found as many literary critics as possible who agreed with you, and wrote a paper about it. (I believe I did Slaughterhouse Five one year, and Childhood's End another. Can't remember what they were about beyond that.)
It was largely an exercise in research and proper footnoting, and those subjects were well worth covering. But we were told in no uncertain terms that when we got to college, our professors would have little to no interest in what we ourselves thought and believed. Writing successful papers in college was all about finding sources and referencing them properly. This led a lot of students to the somewhat backward exercise of finding a theme or thesis that was widely discussed in the literary criticism journals, and selecting that as one's own topic.
Somehow, that never struck me as being right--is college just a vast exercise in parroting what's been said and done before? Surely there's some room for original thought? Sure enough, when I got to college, my professors were very interested in what I had to say. Yes, research and citations had their place, but in some classes, I could write a whole paper based on my own assertions, and if they were coherent and correct, I'd be fine. I'd like to go back to my high school English teachers and tell them they had it wrong.
Weisberg is on to something. The 10th Grade protagonist writes horribly from a grammatical point of view--no commas, always uses "1" rather than "one," etc. That's largely a device on Weisberg's part, but on the other hand a lot of kids do write that poorly, because we give them no reason to be interested in writing. Give them a chance to really express themselves instead of performing a time-worn rote exercise, and we may be surprised at the results.
Due to the vagaries of my work schedule (i.e. I was downtown all day), I didn't make it to the Edwards rally at GMU last night. Sounds like a good turnout, about a thousand people. I'll keep an eye out for first-hand accounts; if anyone finds one elsewhere, please post a link in the comments. I definitely plan to stop by the Kerry event tonight. (For the record, I did actually go bowling yesterday, averaging 133 in two games.)
Even though I didn't actually vote for him. Yeah, I've been a Dean supporter from the beginning, but I think the media's flogging has taken its toll. I think he's done the Democratic party and the country a great service. But I just don't think he's the right guy for the nomination at this time. Instead, I pushed my electronic-voting-button for Wesley Clark. SKB has a good summary. Clark has some decent support here, but in the end I suspect Virginia will go the way of many of the other primaries: Kerry, Edwards, Clark, Dean, in that order. Maybe a little closer than others, but no surprises.
Our polling place has a new electronic voting system. NOT made by Diebold, and not touch-screen. You turn a little dial to make your selection, push a button, then another button to confirm. Easy enough. But no paper trail, which still bugs me.
I noted a disproportionate number of parking enforcement cops around the school. Given that Alexandria is overwhelmingly Democratic and the Dem primary vote was the only thing on the ballot, I can't quite chalk this up to voter intimidation at this time (unless someone's just trying to establish "voting = parking ticket" in Democratic minds), I suppose it's just parking cops using an easy target to meet their quotas. Parking around the school on election day is sucky and confusing.
But what's the best part of voting at an elementary school? Bake sale!
Since most of us don't have the time to keep up with the latest flurry of books dealing with the current administration, Paul Krugman, aka The Shrill One, has done everybody a great service by reviewing two of the most recent and best. His piece is great on its own, but he also gives a good sense of Suskind's and Phillips' theses and themes - a sort of Cliff's Notes for those curious souls who are over-worked and under-served by our main-stream news media.
I am not making this up: I just saw an ad for Quizno's featuring the two... things, whatever the hell they are, from the We Like the Moon song.
Um, interesting choice, there. This proves two things: One, some companies will do anything to appear edgy. And two, do something weird long enough and someone will pay you to do it.
We went to the Overcrowded Chocolate Festival in Fairfax today, and I was handed a flyer for John Kerry's primary night rally, Tuesday, 7 PM at GMU's Johnson Center. You know, downtown Fairfax would be really nice if it weren't for the approximately 10,000 cars passing through every minute.
A check of the calendars shows that Edwdards will also be at the Johnson Center, 6:30 PM Monday.
Clark's calendar never seems to go out more than one day, and Dean's main calendar hasn't been updated at all since I started checking it. The latter is particularly odd considering the Internet-based nature of his support. The Virginia for Dean site has a local calendar with plenty of opportunities to hand out flyers and stuff, but nothing indicating that the good doctor himself is coming to town.
I'm still going to vote for either Dean or Clark, but I'm definitely going to swing by both the Edwards and Kerry events to see what they're all about.
UPDATE: Dean's main calendar has in fact been updated, and it shows him "campaigning in Wisconsin" for the next couple weeks. Guess he really is putting all the eggs in the WI basket. Clark's calendar now shows him in Tennessee tomorrow, so I'm guessing we won't see the general up here at all.
It has been frustrating to watch many of our fellow citizens quickly seize on the latest reports by David Kay as yet more proof of our President's mendacity. Kay clearly points out that the basis upon which President Bush's primary argument for war stood was illusory, but at the same time steadfastly insists that he has seen no evidence that the President exerted undue pressure upon the intelligence services. On the contrary, Kay feels that "from the record it's the intelligence community that abused the President" and that "in general the flow of intelligence turned out not to be true." Richard Perle, who might fairly lay claim to being one of the intellectual and ideological mid-wives of the administration's approach to Iraq, gives a pointed riff on Kay's assertions, stating bluntly that "the President is a consumer of intelligence, not a producer of it."
The recent and not-so-recent charges of lying and malicious intent directed at President Bush are both uncharitable and closed-minded. It seems that the dictates of generosity of spirit ought to compel us to grant him and his advisors as much leeway as possible regarding their personal motivations. Let us assume that President Bush honestly thought that the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq last spring was a necessary good. As David Kay also observes, "everybody agrees that we're better off with Saddam Hussein gone". By this light perhaps we can see that even though the administration's original and primary justification for the invasion of Iraq has been proven to be untenable, the benefits that have accrued as a result of the action outweigh the subsequent falsification of President Bush's primary claims. [article continues below]
This line of argument may well turn out to be correct. It is possible that the situation in Iraq will stabilize and that we will witness the birth of a genuinely democratic political culture. But should we instead see the emergence of a stillborn democracy, or one so weak and malnourished that it fails to mature, we will have only the failure of American democracy to blame. For while Perle is correct that the President is indeed a consumer of intelligence, he is perhaps thinking too narrowly when he asserts that the President does not produce intelligence. The administration is in many ways a medium through which raw and sometimes classified data is processed and projected for public consumption. This information constitutes a large portion of the collective intelligence we citizens employ in forming our commitments to public policy. During the months leading to the invasion the American people were inundated with official proclamations, couched in the unambiguous language of truth-claims, which convinced the majority of the population that the President and his advisors were acting on compelling and irrefutable evidence. Dissenting internal voices were at best politely ignored, but were often dismissed as the rants of Bush-hating conspiracy-theorists. The counsels of the U.N. and many of our foreign allies, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to warrant the actions that President Bush seemed intent upon, were treated dismissively and impetuously. We saw a sharp drop in the consumption of French wine, a marked increase in the sale of Freedom Fries, and a widespread belief that Saddam had been involved in 9/11. In short, we witnessed a systems failure of enormous magnitude. Just as Kay warned with regards to the CIA, we as democratic citizens have become all too familiar with "the difficulties we have of closed orders in secret societies to reform themselves". If one of the primary strengths of an open, democratic society lies in its collective ability to parse through competing claims in order to arrive at better decisions, then our collective failure with regards to Iraq seems to be due in large part to the ways in which the administration encouraged the suppression of dissent and cultivated erroneous public beliefs by means of its power to persuade.
It is important that we do not conflate this abuse of political power with malicious intent. It is also fair to grant David Kay his assertion that there is little evidence of President Bush or his immediate advisors personally pressuring the intelligence services to provide doctored intelligence. We of the general public are in no position to judge these matters accurately. Those who resist the impulse to extrapolate from known failures back to an ill-intentioned conspiracy of Republicans and neo-conservatives are probably wise to do so. It seems more likely that the administration is guilty of a more banal, but no less serious, failing: the inability or unwillingness to give due regard to evidence and arguments which run counter to their chosen theses. In short, they are suffering from the same affliction as their fellow citizens. It is unfortunate that this disease seems to have been so carefully nurtured and disseminated by the Bush White House, and thus proven to be so debilitating to our own native democratic commitments.
It is sad that this blight upon our own political ideals and process may prove to be deadly to the nascent Iraqi democracy for which we have shed the blood of thousands of patriotic American soldiers and innocent Iraqi civilians. Contrary to Bush's claim in his State of the Union Address, most of us who opposed this war were unconvinced that Iraq posed an immediate threat, and were skeptical of President Bush's ability to fulfill his secondary promise of bringing democracy to Iraq. We also worried that Bush's Iraqi venture would damage our country's long-term ability to project power and act persuasively in the court of world opinion. These have turned out to be prescient objections. But the die has been cast. Will the American public, now slowly realizing that their consent to this project was engineered through false claims, be willing to sustain the sacrifices and commitments owed an Iraqi state to which President Bush and his advisors so hastily and impetuously promised to give birth?
Had President Bush originally argued for this war based upon the aims of liberation and democratization, earning widespread support from the American public would admittedly have been a far more difficult project. But now that Iraqi democracy is the stated goal, the President's failure to properly act within the constraints of his own country's democratic ideals may ironically prove to be his enterprise's undoing. The manner in which he and his supporters dismissed the concerns and arguments of many of their own citizens, America's foreign allies, and the U.N. may prove to have established too great a precedent of intransigence and ill-will to overcome. One will never know if a more nuanced and measured approach to the problems which Iraq clearly faced would have proven more efficacious, but given the events of the past eighteen months, it is lamentable that our President's single-mindedness and stubborn adherence to selective data effectively closed down his country's ability to debate these issues on their own merit.
Given the partisan reactions to David Kay's revelations, it seems that we still have yet to learn from these mistakes. Many Democrats cling to Kay's findings as proof that Bush lied, while many Republicans are busy wielding the report as a club by which to beat the CIA and exonerate the Bush administration. Both parties are falling into the same trap out of which President Bush and his advisors are still trying to scramble. By cherry-picking incriminating nuggets out of David Kay's reports and conversations, both sides continue to willfully ignore or suppress evidence which runs counter to their preconceived notions, and in so doing are sapping the strengths of our democratic polity. It is irresponsible to claim that our failure to find WMD proves that Bush was actively and knowingly deceiving us into war. We cannot know what is in any man's heart, and by realizing that all of us run the risk of being judged unfairly at times, it seems that a more charitable and less partisan interpretation as to the motivations of the President and his advisors is in order. There is no doubt now that the President misled the country. He may have done so with the most honorable intentions, but in his conviction of righteousness he failed to act responsibly towards what by all accounts was nuanced and ambiguous evidence. Citizens across the political spectrum have a responsibility to consider more seriously the possibility that most of the failings of our Iraq policy must be laid at the feet of the President and his cabinet. The Bush administration's diplomatic fumblings, ill-advised public declarations and vehement rejection of contrary opinions have seriously damaged not only their country's power, status and credibility abroad, but the very democratic culture and institutions they, as our public servants, swore to protect.
Allen Barra captures much of what I didn't like about the Super Bowl. On the other hand, Easterbrook points out quality line play and other things that often go unnoticed. Easterbrook devoted way too much space in this week's column to non-football stuff. Yeah, some of that is fun, but he should leave most of that to his blog. I expect TMQ to be at least 75% football-related.
John Bonifaz has a very good piece pointing out that Congress' authorization for Bush to go to war in Iraq was unconstitutional. The President's power has increased throughout American history, but these days the whole concept of "checks and balances" seems to have gone right out the window. Don't they teach Civics in our schools anymore?
And finally, man do I love Canada. I like hockey, lacrosse (Canada's national sport, you know), Sloan, the Tragically Hip, and poutine. Liberal, less crime, considering legalizing weed. If only it wasn't so damn cold there.
I don't generally read James Lileks. But TBogg pointed out a piece of this post, and it's a theme I've heard elsewhere:
I’m waiting for an ad that simply puts the matter plainly: who do you think Al Qaeda wants to win the election? Who do you think will make Syria relax? Who do you think Hezbollah worries about more? Who would Iran want to deal with when it comes to its nuclear program – Cowboy Bush or “Send in the bribed French inspectors” Kerry? Which candidate would our enemies prefer?
O the shrieking that would result should such an ad run. You can’t even ask those questions, even though they’re the most relevant questions of the election.
(Italics his.) Now, at first I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, that he was saying "This would be a good tactic," regardless of the truthfulness of the statements, and that would be correct. However, the second paragraph I've quoted here leads me to believe that Lileks really thinks that terrorists chortle and rub their hands together fiendishly at the thought of a Democratic president.
Which is ridiculous, and displays little understanding of what Al Qaeda members might be thinking. I can't claim to read their minds any more than Lileks can, but as fas as I can tell, Al Qaeda hates America, and probably has not and does not distinguish between Clinton or Bush, Republican or Democrat. From where they sit, we've been meddling in Middle Eastern affairs for decades now, and it's spanned multiple administrations of both parties. Same goes for Syria or Iran or Hezbollah.
A cheap shot like "The terrorists want Kerry to win" could be well answered by, "If terrorists quake in their boots at the thought of a Republican administration, why did they perpetrate the September 11 attacks during the Bush presidency?"
A week or two ago, I posted that Virginia's Feb. 10 primary was the only primary that week. I swear I got that from what seemed like a reliable source, but it's glaringly wrong: Tennessee is the same day, Michigan's primary and Washington state's caucuses are Saturday, and Maine has caucuses Sunday. So we're not the only game going that week, and thus won't get the level of candidate attention that I was expecting. As of last night when I checked, NONE of the big four had any northern Virginia events on their calendars. Kerry's site says he has something in Richmond, and Edwards will be hitting Richmond and Roanoke.
It's all subject to change, of course: this morning's Post says Edwards will be in the state all week, and Kerry will be in NoVa at some point, but no specifics. Keep checking the schedules (Dean, Clark, Kerry, Edwards), and come on out to whoop and holler for your candidate(s) of choice.
Sunday night's Bud Light commercials: a dog bites a man's crotch, another man gets a leg wax, a horse farts and in the process a woman's face is scorched, and a talking monkey wants to have sex with a woman, even making suggestive squeaky-bed noises. Nary a peep on any of these from the FCC or any mainstream right-wing morality watchdogs.
Janet Jackson's breast is visible for about one second. OH THE HUMANITY! WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?
Why the discrepancy? Is a flash of boob really that much more offensive than monkey-human intercourse? Is there an assumption that kids were paying attention during the halftime show, but didn't watch the ad? Or that kids wouldn't understand the ad?
Or, big corporations pushing a product can do whatever they want, while entertainers are arbitrarily held to a higher standard?
_Dear_ Citi-bank _Clients_,
This_ EMAIL was sentt by_the _citibank sevrers to
veerify your email_ address.
You muust cetmpole this poercss by clicking on the_ link
beloow and enttering in the little _window_ your Citbiank
Debit full Card number and pin that you use_ in local Atm Machine.
That_is _done_ for your petcortion -v- becouse some of our
membres no leongr have accses to their email adessders
and we must verify it.
Impressive. How can someone be intelligent enough to set up a spoof Citibank web site to swipe debit card numbers and PINs, but can't even freakin' BEGIN to spell correctly?
Yes, we've hit the big time... there's spam in the comment threads.
Via ODub, the Prospect has an article on the GOP's ramp-up for the 2004 election, and it includes this alarming bit:
Voter registration and identification weren't the only mobilization programs that occupied the Republicans in 2003, however. They were involved in a major voter-intimidation program as well. The battleground on which they tested their latest tactics was the Philadelphia mayor's race, where the campaign of the Republican challenger, Sam Katz, grew extremely nervous at the success the Democrats had had at registering minority voters. The Republican response was an attempt to scare black and Hispanic voters away from the polls -- not a new trick in the Republican playbook by any means, but one that the DNC had better be studying and preparing to confront this November.
To begin, according to Democratic consultant Tom Lindenfeld, who ran the counter-intimidation program for the campaign of Democrat John Street, the Republicans assembled a fleet of 300 cars driven by men with clipboards bearing insignias or decals resembling those of such federal agencies as Drug Enforcement Agency and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Thus arrayed, says Lindenfeld, these pseudo-cops spent election day cruising Philadelphia's African American neighborhoods and asking prospective voters to show them some identification -- an age-old method of voter intimidation. "What occurred in Philadelphia was much more expansive and expensive than anything I'd seen before, and I'd seen a lot," says Lindenfeld, who ran similar programs for the campaigns of Harvey Gantt in North Carolina and other prominent Democrats. In a post-election poll of 1,000 black voters, 7 percent of them said they had encountered these efforts (this being Philadelphia, there were allegations of violence and intimidation against Street supporters as well). Lindenfeld employed 800 people to confront the GOP's faux-agents at polling places.
Holy crap. If true, this leads to several questions, not least of which is "Shouldn't that be illegal?" Anyone who claims to support democracy in the Middle East or elsewhere should be outraged at these sorts of tactics, and if Bush and company tacitly condone them they are even bigger hypocrites than previously thought possible. Voter intimidation tactics aren't new, of course. I hope the Democratic nominee wrangles a condemnation of this crap out of Bush during the debate... and that a lot of Democratic volunteers come out to be poll watchers.
I am pleased to announced that my good friend Rob will be joining the FoolBlog as an occasional contributor. (For those in the know, this is Albuquerque Rob, not Philly Rob.) He's a frequent commenter here, and we also have e-mail discussions of various issues, and I think it's high time he used all that intelligent thought and good writing to publish better posts than I typically come up with. Hopefully more and better posts = more and better readers.
Did Nantz seriously call this the greatest Super Bowl ever during the trophy ceremony? Jeez. This game had good stretches at the end of each half, but there were also long swatches of boring play. A good game in the end, but I'd stop short of calling it the best ever. Furthermore, Nantz must feel dirty for having to plug the Cadillac convertible during the MVP presentation.
Props to Vinateri and a nicely balanced Patriots team, but those touchdown passes to Smith and Muhammad were pretty sweet.
Still no great ads. Perhaps the heyday of the spectacular Super Bowl ad is beyond us. Anyone in any way responsible for that Pepsi ad claiming responsibility for Jimi Hendrix is going straight to hell.
For the first 25 or so minutes of this half, we were looking at the Most Boring Super Bowl Ever. At one point we had three consecutive first-down measurements, followed by an official review. Fortunately we got a sack and a fumble, a Pats TD, and a Panthers TD in reply to liven things up. And now the Pats have scored again to end the half.
The ads haven't been so great either. The AOL high-speed ads with the American Chopper guys have been the best so far, but I still don't want to get AOL of any sort.
Overlooked great play: on the Brady run just before the Patriots' first TD, tight end Christian Fauria was covered over the middle. It sure looked to me like he saw the running lane for Brady, and took off for the sideline to draw off the guy covering him. If this was intentional, it's a great play by Fauria.
Phil Simms always gives Greg Gumbel crap about the content of the CBS promo spots when they come back from commercials. Just once, I want to hear Greg say, "Dammit, Phil, I'm just reading what's on the card."